Scripture Reading: Gal. 2:20; Heb. 11:1
IN ORDER TO OVERCOME, ONE MUST BELIEVE
Today we will read only Galatians 2:20 and Hebrews 11:1. During the past few days, we have seen that the overcoming life is simply Christ Himself. The overcoming life is not an improvement or advancement in ourselves, and it is not a self-effort to strive to become like Christ. Victory is Christ living within us; that is, it is Christ overcoming for us. He has died for us on the cross to save us. Today He is living within us to overcome for us. During the past few days, we have seen the conditions for overcoming. The first condition is to surrender, and the second condition is to believe. We believe that the Son of God lives within us, and we believe that He is living out His victory from within us. Yesterday, we saw the meaning of surrendering. Today we will see the meaning of believing. I am afraid that many people have surrendered, but they are not victorious because they still have not believed. Therefore, we must remember that we cannot overcome if we have surrendered but have not believed. To surrender is only the negative side of the matter. We still need to believe; this is the positive side. If we surrender on the negative side and believe on the positive side, we will overcome.
There was a brother from Chefoo who once went to Shanghai. He went home to tell others that he had surrendered, but that he still had not overcome. He felt as terrible as he did before. He even lost his temper in his place of work. I told him that surrendering is not the same as overcoming, because surrendering is merely the negative aspect. Believing is equally important. He took that word, and eventually he overcame. In the last meeting, he praised God and proclaimed that for the first time, he had nothing to boast of and that everything was of God.
Brothers and sisters, please remember that the condition for victory is not merely surrendering. One does not overcome merely by surrendering. After surrendering, one must believe in a definite way. When one surrenders and then believes, he will overcome.
What was Paul's experience? How did he overcome? First, he surrendered. He said, "I am crucified with Christ." He had already experienced that it was "no longer I," but he went on to say, "The life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith in the Son of God." This means that he believed that Christ lived in him and that He loved him and gave Himself up for him.
Many people have surrendered, but they have not overcome because they have not believed. If they do not believe, nothing will work. Today I will talk about the meaning of faith, but I cannot talk about it in detail. I can only speak about it briefly. I will point out the great relationship between faith and victory.
BELIEVING IN GOD'S FACT
Everything recorded in the Bible has been accomplished by God for us. God has accomplished everything for us. In our January conference of last year, we mentioned three things that God has given us: First, there is the covenant which God has given us. Second, there are the facts which He has accomplished for us. Third, there are the promises He has given us. These three things include all of God's work for us. We spoke about these three things when we were on the subject of the new covenant. Today I will not say much about them. A promise is something God will do for us; it is something that He will do in the future. A fact is something that God has accomplished in Christ; it is something that God has done already. Today I will talk about God's fact and His promise.
Many people do not know what God's fact is. The Lord Jesus has died for all men on the cross; He has died for the whole world. This is God's fact. But how many people are saved? Only those who believe are saved. Since Christ has died for the whole world, is it inconsequential whether or not a person believes? Is one saved whether or not he believes? Is it the same whether or not one believes, since Christ has died for all and since this has become God's fact? This is the way many Christians think when they say that Christ is living within them. Christ is the Head and we are the Body. The way the Head feels, controls, manages, and takes responsibility should be the same way Christians feel, control, manage, and take responsibility. How many Christians today see that the Lord Jesus is the Head? Is it Christ who is feeling or we who are feeling? Is it Christ who is controlling or we who are controlling? Is it Christ who is managing or we who are managing? Is it Christ taking charge or we who are taking charge? What is our problem? The problem is that we do not have faith.
Some brothers and sisters say that they have faith in Christ being the Head, but they do not have faith in the Head taking up all the responsibilities. Many people cannot believe; they do not know what faith means. The Bible says that the Lord is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:5). It does not say that He will be our vine and we will be His branches. It does not matter whether or not we believe, He is always the vine, and we are always the branches. However, those who believe will have the experience of the juice flowing through them, and they will experience fruit in their work. The Lord's life does not flow through those who do not believe; they have to struggle to work and to bear fruit. If we tell them that the Lord is the vine and we are the branches, they may ask why they cannot work or bear fruit. They cannot because they do not have faith. Since the Lord is the vine and we are the branches, they may respond that it does not matter whether or not one believes and that God's fact is always God's fact. Those who say this do not know the meaning of faith.
FAITH BEING THE SUBSTANTIATION OF GOD'S FACT
Hebrews 11:1 speaks of the importance of faith. This is the only verse in the whole Bible that gives the definition of faith. "Now faith is the substantiation of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." There are many ways to translate the word "substantiation." It is a difficult word to translate from Greek to English. The word "substantiation" means the capacity to make something real. For example, we have the shape of the lamps, the color of the walls, and the sound of the organ. How can these shapes, colors, and sounds become real to us? The only thing that proves the existence of color is our eyes. Here is a picture in beautiful green, red, and yellow colors, but the beautiful colors can only be substantiated through the eyes. Without the eyes, the colors could not be substantiated no matter how beautiful they are. The sound of the organ is very beautiful, but it can only be substantiated by the ears. A deaf person will not be able to substantiate sound. The eyes cannot substantiate sound, and hands cannot substantiate sound. Only the ears can substantiate sound. Different objects have different shapes: some are cubic, while others are spherical, flat, triangular, or curved. One can only substantiate these shapes by the vision of the eyes or the touch of the hands. Therefore, it is one thing for objects to exist, and it is another thing for the existence of these things to be substantiated. There are millions of objects on the earth, but all of them are dependent upon a certain ability in order to be substantiated. The same is true with faith.
Here is a painting with mountains, water, flowers, grass, and trees. The scenery is beautiful, and if you have eyes, you can appreciate the beauty of the painting and tell others about it. But suppose a person was born blind and has never seen color his whole life. If you tell him about red and that it is attractive, he will ask, "What is red?" You may tell him about green and that it is lovely, but he will ask, "What is green?" You can only say that red is red and green is green. Although the painting exists, he cannot appreciate how wonderful it is. Although the scenery in the picture is wonderful, there is no way he can enjoy this wonder.
We have a sister here who can play the piano very well. Those who have ears and understand music can appreciate the music that she plays. However, those who are deaf or do not understand music cannot testify to the beauty of the music. The same is true of our faith. All of God's facts are real. However, these facts of God can only be substantiated by faith, because faith is the substantiation of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
A nice painting may have beautiful scenery, but a blind man cannot see it. However, one cannot say that the painting does not exist because he has not seen it. The painting exists as a fact. Whether or not one sees, it is still a painting, and the beautiful colors are still present. The question is whether or not you have received the benefit from the painting. Those with sight will find enjoyment from the painting; they will receive the benefit from it. The Lord has died and shed His blood on the cross for all men. This is a fact. But some have the faith to substantiate this fact of the Lord's death, and they receive the benefit from it. Some do not have the faith. The death of the Lord on the cross is still a fact, but they are unable to experience it.
Brothers and sisters, do you see the importance of faith? We need faith to substantiate a spiritual fact just as we need eyes, ears, and hands to substantiate physical objects. In spiritual matters, we need faith to substantiate the reality of everything. The hand substantiates the shape of objects, and the ear perceives sound, but the hand cannot feel nor can the ear hear colors. Colors can only be substantiated by the eyes. This is also true with spiritual matters. For example, the Lord is the Head and we are the members. This union is a fact, and there is no possibility of any separation. In the same way, the Lord is the vine and we are the branches, and there is no possibility of separation. If we believe this, we will receive the benefit of this fact. Some people confess that the Lord is the vine and we are the branches. But they do not have the juice, the life. They cannot bear fruit because they do not have faith.
What is faith? It is not a mental understanding of a truth. It is the seeing of a fact and the substantiation of it. We have heard that the Lord has died on the cross and shed His blood for our redemption. We may even agree with others that the Lord has died on the cross and shed His blood for our redemption. We have also heard that the Lord is the vine and we are the branches, and we may agree with others that He is the vine and we are the branches. We have heard that the Lord Jesus is our life and living within us, and we may even agree with others that He is our life and living within us. Yet this alone cannot substantiate these facts. Brothers and sisters, we may have put ourselves aside and have already realized that we are powerless and useless. We may have already let go, but these are only the things we should do on the negative side. On the positive side, we should still substantiate Christ. This is a wonderful thing! It only takes a second, and the accomplished facts of Christ will be substantiated in us.
Here is a beautiful painting. How do you know that it is beautiful? You know it because you have seen it. How do you know about all the riches in Christ? You know because you have seen them. Colossians says that we are made full in Christ. How do we know that we are made full in Christ? We know because we have seen Him. When we look at ourselves, we do not see any fullness. But we are told that we are made full in Christ. Are we made full in Christ yet? The Lord has given us all the fullness and given us grace upon grace. Do we have them yet? It is not a question of whether we have them in our head but whether or not we have such a faith in our heart.
Ephesians 1:3 says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ." There is no doubt that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ. But where are these blessings? Brothers and sisters, the main question hinges on faith; we have to believe that God's Word is true. This is so simple, and there is nothing more to say about it.
What is faith? Let us consider this matter from the Lord's view. A great failure among Christians is that they cannot believe. Believing is substantiating the facts. Once we see something, we substantiate it. Once we believe, we substantiate the facts, and we have it.
There was an Englishman called Mr. Webpeblo whose daughter died one day. When he returned from his daughter's funeral, he considered what the subject of his sermon should be the next day. He thought, "My daughter is dead, and the congregation knows that I am heartbroken. I must give a sermon to comfort them." He chose the text of 2 Corinthians 12:9 as his subject: "My grace is sufficient for you." He divided his sermon into sections and subsections according to the Scripture. Then he knelt down and prayed for God's blessing. But while he was praying, he asked himself, "Is God's grace sufficient for me? If His grace is not sufficient for me, how can I say that it is? I say that God's grace is sufficient, but if I sorrow and grieve over my daughter's death, God's grace is not sufficient for me. I cannot lie." He thought of changing the subject, but there was no time to do it. He decided that he would just pray for God to make His grace sufficient for him. He prayed, "God, make Your grace sufficient for me. O Lord, make Your grace sufficient for me." He prayed for a long time, but nothing availed. He did not know what he should do. At that moment, he lifted up his eyes and saw the same verse on the mantel. It was a verse that his mother had placed there while he was away for the funeral. The verse was printed in three colors. The words My and you were printed in blue; the word sufficient was printed in red. All the other letters were printed in black. Suddenly, God's light dawned on him, and he confessed before the Lord, saying, "God, You said that Your grace is sufficient for me, but I said that Your grace is not sufficient for me. You have said that Your grace is sufficient for me, but I am still asking for Your grace to be sufficient for me." He confessed his sin and thanked and praised the Lord, saying, "Your grace is sufficient for me. There is no need for me to pray for anything any longer." He was filled with joy and thanksgiving. There was no need for him to pray any longer. The next day on the platform, he delivered the best sermon of his life. When someone asked him about the source of his power, he answered that it came after his daughter's funeral. From that day on he was different, because he had learned to believe.
The problem today is that we have heard that the Lord Jesus is the Head, yet we still pray for Him to be our Head. Why would we not rather thank and praise Him, saying, "Lord, You are the Head"? If we would do this, the fact would be substantiated immediately.
A brother once said, "Mr. Nee, you have spoken so much, but I have not received anything." I answered that it was because he was merely listening to my speaking; he should instead go to the Lord and ask Him to speak to him. That evening he prayed to God, saying, "God, make me overcome. Lord, make me victorious. Lord, I have a bad temper; help me to overcome." While he was praying, he recalled the prayer of the leper who prayed to the Lord, saying, "If You are willing, You can cleanse me." He prayed accordingly, "Lord, if You are willing, my temper will go away." At that point, he realized that if the Lord was willing, there was nothing more to pray about. The Lord has accomplished everything, and He is willing; everything is done.
Brothers and sisters, all that we have to do is believe 2 Corinthians 12:9 or Luke 18:27. As long as we believe the words "I am willing," everything will be all right. Once we have the "I am willing," problems are behind us and tempers are no more. Even if our wives are dying from sickness, as long as the Lord has said, "I am willing," everything will be all right. This is the meaning of believing. Believing is not asking for something; it is not asking for God to do something that He has already promised to do.
Once a brother was speaking on the subject of overcoming. After his message, he invited the brothers and sisters to ask any questions that they might have. He noticed that a young sister was weeping in her seat but would not stand up to ask anything. Another older lady stood up and asked, "For the past few years, I have been praying for victory but have never experienced it. What is wrong?" The brother answered, "Nothing. You have prayed too much. If you change your prayer into praise, everything will be well." After this, another man stood up and said, "I have been seeking victory for eleven years but have not overcome. That lady's question and your answer enlightened me, and now I have it." The brother then walked over to the side of the young sister and asked how she was doing. The girl answered that she also became clear after hearing the question and the answer. This is the meaning of faith.
Brothers and sisters, please remember that letting go is not all. If you do not have faith, you will not substantiate the facts. The color of a painting can be substantiated only by the eyes, the sound of an organ can be substantiated only by the ears, and the texture of an object can be substantiated only by the hands. In the same way, God's Word and His promises can be substantiated only by faith. We do not have to hesitantly pray to God, saying, "Lord, be my victory, be my life, and be my sanctification." Rather, we should say to Him, "God, You are my victory. I thank and praise You because You are my life and You are my sanctification. I thank and praise You!"
Brothers and sisters, we encounter temptations all the time. Many difficulties confront us and harsh words fall on our ears. Should we pray for God to give us the strength to overcome? No, we should say, "Lord, I thank and praise You because You are my victory! Lord, You are overcoming for me. I thank and praise You that You are withstanding everything for me. Thank You that You are my Head and I am Your member. You are the vine and I am a branch. You are supplying me everything." He is already supplying us everything according to His word!
When we were saved, we received one word out of the thousands that the Lord spoke. Some people were saved through John 3:16. Others were saved through John 5:24. Still others were saved through Romans 10:10. As long as we have one word from the Lord, we are saved. The same is true with victory; all we need is just one out of His many words. The brother mentioned earlier overcame through just three words: "I am willing." Some overcome through 2 Corinthians 12:9, while others overcome through Romans 6:14. Still others overcome through 1 Corinthians 1:30.
FAITH NOT BEING HOPE
Now we need to ask what faith is not. Faith is not hope. Those who have hope do not necessarily have faith. When you talk to others about overcoming and ask whether they have overcome, you know that they do not have faith if they answer, "I hope I will overcome." This is like talking to someone about salvation. If he tells you that he hopes to be saved, you know that he does not have the faith yet. Some people constantly hope that the Lord will save them, and they constantly hope that the Lord will help them overcome. Some people constantly pray and ask the Lord to make them overcome. Some people constantly wait for the Lord to make them overcome. Some people say that they have surrendered and believed, but they are still waiting to see whether it will work. If they want to wait and see whether this works, it will never work, because faith is not hope.
A brother once asked me whether a person who has overcome should try to constantly remember that the Lord is his victory. He said, "I have over twenty workers working in my factory. I have to supervise them, but I easily forget about things. I am the supervisor over many girls. Every day, from morning until 8:00 in the evening, many things happen to them. How can I always remember that the Lord is my victory? If I cannot remember, am I still victorious?" I asked, "When you are in your factory, do you remember that you have two eyes?" He said, "No." I asked, "When you leave the factory, do you have to touch your eyes with your hands to make sure that they are there?" He said, "Of course not." It does not matter whether he remembered his eyes. The only thing that mattered was whether his eyes were truly there. Thank and praise the Lord, the overcoming life is not a matter of us remembering the Lord, but a matter of the Lord remembering us. It would be great hardship on us if we were required to remember the Lord. Thank and praise the Lord that He remembers us!
FAITH NOT BEING FEELING
Some people are not hoping, praying, or waiting, but they are looking for feelings. A sister said that she has surrendered and believed that the Lord is living in her, but that she dare not say that she has overcome. This is because from the day she received the Lord Jesus as her victory, she never had any feeling about it. Brothers and sisters, believing is having absolute faith in something; feeling does not play any part in this. Feeling has nothing to do with what a picture looks like; it only takes the eyes to see. There may be some occasions when feelings are useful. However, feelings are useless in understanding the things of God. The hand can only touch things and sense their temperature; it cannot see a picture. Spiritual things can only be substantiated by faith; they cannot be substantiated by feelings. We overcome because of the Word of God. God speaks, and it is done. This is not a matter of feeling some kind of strength or experiencing some exuberant sensation for a few days. In order to overcome, there only needs to be one word from the Lord.
This morning, a brother mentioned his problem. He had already surrendered and believed, but he dared not say that he had overcome. Satan was still accusing him. Something happened yesterday which seemed to tell him that he had backslidden. He began to doubt whether his victory was real. I said to him, "Suppose I sold the garden in back of my house to you and wrote a contract for it. If someone else comes and says that the plot of land is his, what will you do?" In such a situation, there are two things that he could do. The first thing would be to believe the contract and believe that everything mentioned in the contract was his. The second would be to believe my word and believe that since my words were true, the other man's words must be false. The question was whose word he would choose to believe. If he chose to believe that man's word, he would have to allow the man to remain on the land. But if he chose to believe my words, he should tell the man to leave, and the man would have to leave immediately. God's promise and His Word are trustworthy. If you say that your temper and pride are real, you make God's Word unreliable. If you do not have faith, your temper and pride will become real. But if you have faith, all these things will be driven away.
God has given us a covenant which says that meekness is ours, patience is ours, and love, temperance, and everything in Christ are ours. But when you lose your temper again, and your pride, uncleanness, and failures come back, what should you do? If you believe God's Word, you should say, "God, I thank and praise You because I can be meek, patient, humble, loving, and temperate. I can be all these because Christ is living in me." As long as you grasp hold of God's Word, the things you fear will go away.
UNBELIEF BEING THE GREATEST SIN
The greatest problem among God's children today is that they cannot believe God's Word. It is not that hard to ask them to let go. Since they have let go, it should be an easy thing for them to believe. Brothers and sisters, please come before the presence of the Lord. After you have let go, you should have the faith that you will get through.
A sister had let go completely and committed everything to the Lord. I asked her whether she had overcome, and she answered that she was not sure. I asked her why, and she said that she had not seen the results yet. I said to her bluntly, "You have committed the greatest sin that man can commit, the sin of unbelief. When you do not believe, it means that you are making God a liar. God has said that you are a branch and that if you let go, the Lord's life will spontaneously flow out of you. However, you are saying that God has not delivered you even though you have let go. You are saying that you have fulfilled your part but God has not fulfilled His part." She denied that this was her intention. Then I told her, "You should say to the Lord, `I thank and praise You because You have given everything to me.'"
Brothers and sisters, please remember that when we believe in the Lord as our Head and our life and believe that we have received everything, everything is indeed ours. Once we believe, all problems are solved. Once we have faith, no obstacle can stop us from victory. Hallelujah! This is salvation. Our believing today is not a work but a substantiation of the facts. We believe that the Lord is the Head, that He lives in us, that He is our life, that He is the vine and we are the branches, and that He is overcoming for us. Once we believe, all the temptations will go away. Once we believe, the Lord will do everything for us. Thank and praise Him that He has done everything!
We have been meeting here for eight or nine days already. I would like to see what is going to happen to all of us. How many of us have let go? How many have not only let go but also believed? First, I would ask those who have let go to raise their hands. Now I would like those who have let go and also believed to raise their hands. There is not much difference between the number of those who raised their hands the first time and the number of those who raised their hands the second time. However, the second time there were a few less hands. Now I will say a little more about the matter of believing.
Brothers and sisters, please remember that God's Word is trustworthy. We are not trusting our own experience. We are not believing our own feelings. We are believing God's Word. God says that the Lord Jesus has not only become our righteousness on the cross, but that Christ has become our sanctification through living within us. Therefore, we can say that Christ is not only our righteousness but also our sanctification. We do not have to feel that Christ is our life, and we do not have to feel that Christ is our sanctification. We believe that He is our life and that He is our sanctification. God's Word is reliable. When God says that Christ is our life, we also say that He is our life. When God says that Christ is our sanctification, we also say that He is our sanctification. When God says that Christ is our victory, we also say that He is our victory. Whatever God says, we believe.
In Chefoo I asked a sister whether or not she had let go, and she answered, "Yes, because God says that I am crucified with Christ." Next I asked her whether she had overcome, and she dared not say whether she had, because she was not sure. I told her frankly, "Sister, God says that Jesus Christ is your life, but you are saying that Jesus Christ may not be your life. God says that Jesus Christ is your sanctification, but you are saying that Jesus Christ may not be your sanctification. God says that His grace is sufficient for you, but you are saying that His grace may not be sufficient for you. Between you and God, one must be lying. Either God is wrong or you are wrong. Do you dare say that God is a liar? God says that Christ is your life, but you are saying that Christ may not be your life. God says that Christ is your sanctification, but you are saying that Christ may not be your sanctification. Are you not saying that God's Word is untrustworthy?" By then, her expression had changed, and she replied immediately, "I do not mean that. I do believe God's Word." Brothers and sisters, if you are still doubting, and if you still wonder whether Christ is your life and whether He is your sanctification, this is not a small thing. I can tell you bluntly that you are making God a liar!
I once talked briefly to a sister in Chefoo before a meeting. Because the time of the meeting was approaching, I asked her quickly whether she had let go. She told me that she had. I then asked whether she had overcome, and she said that she had not but that she knew what her problem was and that it was not a big problem. I realized that I had to go in a few minutes, and I prayed for God to give me the wisdom to say something to her. I said, "You smiled and said casually that you do not have faith. But in God's sight, this is a great sin. It is a great sin to not believe God's Word. God says that Christ is your life and that He is your sanctification. He says that Christ is your victory and that His grace is sufficient for you. But you cannot believe, and you even think lightly of it and brush it away with a smile. Sister, I must tell you that you have committed a great sin! You have to go to the Lord and say, `God, I have not believed Your Word; I have sinned against You. Please forgive me, and remove my evil heart of unbelief. Please remove this sin from me.'"
Some do not believe, but they are still smiling. They think that unbelief is not a great thing. Actually, this is a great sin. This sin is more serious than the sin of adultery or murder. We have to say to God, "Forgive me, for I have sinned against You. Lord, remove my evil heart of unbelief." If we call this unbelief a sin, we will get through. Our faith is based on God's Word. How wonderful is 2 Corinthians 12:9, which says, "My grace is sufficient for you"! How wonderful is 1 Corinthians 1:30, which says, "Christ Jesus...became wisdom to us from God: both righteousness and sanctification and redemption"! How wonderful is Colossians 3:4, which says, "Christ [is] our life"! If we grasp hold of God's Word and believe His Word, all will be well. Even if we have only one verse of the Scripture or one word from the Lord, we will have the assurance, and we will overcome.
Source: Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 2) Vol. 24: The Overcoming Life, by Watchman Nee